Comments / New

Bottom Six Minutes: Habs’ second line continues to impress

Feb 22, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry (35) makes a save against Montreal Canadiens right wing Joshua Roy (89) during the third period at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins won 4-1.Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Expected goals don’t always line up with what happens in terms of actual goals in the game of hockey. That’s what happened to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night, playing well enough to expect to outscore the Pittsburgh Penguins, but falling 4-1 thanks largely to an inability to cash in on their scoring chance advantage. Outside of some rather disappointing power play attempts, there really wasn’t much to complain about on a night where they played well enough to earn a win against most teams.

And for the second night in a row, the second line of Joshua Roy, Alex Newhook, and Josh Anderson were beyond reproach.

In their short time together, they’ve seen their ice time increase from game to game, and the numbers wholly support that decision. Against the Penguins at five-on-five, they controlled 70.97% of shot attempts, 75% of scoring chances, and 100% of high-danger scoring chances. Their seven high-danger chances were as many as the team’s other three lines combined. It may not have translated to goals this time, but Tristan Jarry had his hands full with that line on Thursday.

Roy is a huge part of this line’s success, and he’ll be hanging on to his lineup spot for as long as possible with the way he’s playing. He makes it a nightmare for opposing teams to clear their zone, constantly winning battles, and positioning himself to pick off or disrupt breakout passes every shift. His lack of foot speed was always considered a potential impediment to his NHL future, but so far he’s excelling with two players who can really fly. Were he not robbed on a couple of chances by Jarry, Roy could have had a pair of goals in that game.

Newhook doesn’t seem to have any lingering effects from his injury whatsoever, and looks about the best he has since the original second line with himself, Kirby Dach, and Juraj Slafkovsky was unfortunately broken up. He looks comfortable in the middle of the ice, and while we know he is better served moving back to the wing, it is a luxury for the coaching staff to know he can play in the middle when the need arises.

And you can’t help but wonder if this new trio will boost the potential trade value for Anderson, who has had easily the most difficult season of his career. His season-long mark for expected-goals for stands at just over 40%, but in the last two games he’s been hovering around 80%. The coaching staff hasn’t been able to figure out a trio that he works on to save their lives, but with this new line, his underlying numbers suggest they may have finally found the answer.

This line is a lot of fun to watch right now, and setting up some very interesting options for the future.

Click the play button below to listen to your full Bottom Six Minutes, also available wherever you get your podcasts. We’ll return after tomorrow’s matinee against the New Jersey Devils.

Support Habs Eyes On The Prize by signing up for Norton 360